Tax refund service signs promise big returns, but do they deliver?

What to ask your tax preparers

OCOEE, Fla. – Tax refund signs are all over, promising big money returns, especially if you're claiming children.

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Twenty-five-year-old Kelly Stephenson has two kids and says, "If you had two kids they said they can get you, like, $5,000."

But when Stephenson sat down with Kwik Services in Ocoee her refund was much lower.

"It was really low compared to what they were advertising it was supposed to be," Stephenson said.

Not to mention their fee, which was $680.

"I was kind of like are you serious? No I'm not doing that." Stephenson said.

Stephenson walked away but without paperwork full of personal information. In fact she says the woman told her they needed it for their records. That's when she called Local 6.

Local 6 put Stephenson in touch with Jonathan Gorman, a CPA of Florida Accounting and Litigation Services.

"If you're not sure of something chances are it's too good to be true. Trust your instinct, Kelly did the right thing walking out," Gorman said.

Something you can do even before you walk in? Call.

Gorman suggests asking:

  • Who will do your taxes?
  • What are their credentials?
  • How long have they been doing taxes?
  • And most important, do they have a current preparer tax identification number or PTIN number? Gorman says, "That in itself is a red flag."

A simple search of the IRS website found no PTIN number for the owner of Kwik Services

So we went to find out if any tax preparers there are credentialed?

In fact, Gorman says over 80 percent of tax payers can use computer software programs to calculate what they owe. If your total household income is less than 53,000 there are ways to get your taxes done for free.

As for those refund signs enticing customers to come in, Gorman says, "It almost implies that everybody gets the same amount and in that way I think it's quite dishonest."

Even if you don't think you're going to get a refund you need to file every year. You filing every year makes it difficult for someone to use your information for a fraudulent tax return.